- Exile and Journey in Seventeenth-Century Literature
At its core, Christopher D’Addario’s Exile and Journey in Seventeenth-Century Literature is a book about loss. That it takes an expansive approach to its topic, including work written on two continents and from a variety of political stances, testifies to the extent to which personal, political, and even geographic dislocation became one of the hallmarks of seventeenth-century life. D’Addario’s entry into this period, and in particular into the revolutions and Restoration of the mid- to late 1600s, is the concept of “exile,” a displacement of identity conditioned by physical, ideological, or mental removal from a homeland. This displacement could be physical, as in the case of the Puritan emigrants or the Royalists who fled to the Continent, or it could be internal, a category occupied here by Milton and Dryden, writers marked by a profound alienation from the authority, ideology, and even language that defined national and individual identity. In examining not only the affective but also the material conditions of exile, D’Addario’s book asserts the experience of alienation, of removal from stable centers of power and identity, as being crucial to much of seventeenth-century literature.
Perhaps surprisingly for a book whose focus lies primarily with British literature, D’Addario begins not in England but in New England. This is a choice driven as much by geography as chronology, for it enables D’Addario to introduce the proof of his arguments with those writers most recognizably distant from London and its reading public before turning to the necessarily more complex category of internal exiles. Writers and readers living in New England during the initial years of the Great Migration and Puritan settlement, D’Addario contends, possessed a particular ambivalence toward their English homeland, sprung in part from the dislocations of time and audience that marked early transatlantic print culture. D’Addario centers his analysis on Anne Bradstreet and Nathaniel Ward, two writers whose nostalgic conservatism and plain style linguistically evidence the religious purity the Puritan communities sought to secure in their exile. Some of D’Addario arguments here will already be familiar to scholars, especially those working in the growing vein of transatlantic studies. Of particular interest, however, is D’Addario’s claim that the [End Page 55] increasing tendency toward intolerance that possessed many settler communities is mirrored not only in their politics but also in their growing distaste for what he terms “alternative linguistic signification” (51). As the hope and desire to continue the reformation of England dimmed, attitudes toward both differing ideas and their differing expression hardened.
From the Puritans of New England D’Addario then turns to the Royalist exiles in France during the Interregnum. Bereft of ready access to England’s news and print marketplaces, D’Addario argues, Royalist texts confront how the collapse of monarchical authority had yielded a linguistic and cultural confusion in which terms like “honor,” previously so much the part of political culture, now seemed bereft of meaning. This fear finds its expression in Leviathan, in which the insistent linkage between linguistic and political stability demonstrates that Hobbes “not only responded to the conditions of displacement; he consumed them, developed crucial theories because of them, attempted to order them” (73). Though his readings are attentive to the nuances of this text, D’Addario’s focus on Leviathan somewhat simplifies the more complicated case Hobbes might make for the exilic influence. Though removed from London, Hobbes’ writings also bear marks of their author’s active engagement in continental intellectual life, and, as D’Addario acknowledges, concern for the right use of words had long been a part of Hobbes’ political thought.
With the restoration of Charles II the book then turns to John Milton. Beginning usefully with The Readie and Easie Way, D’Addario charts how the expressive modes most conducive to the experience of the republican exiles—jeremiad, prophecy—culminate in the epic, a genre whose heavy emphasis on national identity offered Milton the opportunity to negotiate and ultimately reclaim the authority and communal...